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Why should we pay for roads?

by Visiting Research Fellow Darryl Gobbett in Conversation with SACES

If you are just catching up with our Doctor Who series….some background.

Doctor Who has been travelling through space and time for more than half a century since the start of the BBC television series of the same name in 1963. The much-loved Time Lord has had many guises, most recently played by Jodie Whittaker.

The Doctor has seen a lot of social and economic change as he/she has time-travelled in the trusty Tardis, a space-craft resembling a Police phone box. So, The Doctor is now well-placed to make pertinent and perceptive judgments on many current issues, including the laws and regulations that are confronting business and constraining the local economy.

 The Doctor has been accompanied recently by a fellow called Paul, who carries the same name as three winners of the Nobel Prize for Economics, Paul Samuelson, Paul Krugman and Paul Romer, and arguably Australia’s finest Federal Treasurer, Paul Keating.

 Every now and then, The Doctor and Paul drop in to see Bruce, a long-time observer of South Australia’s politics and economy who struggles to make sense of the vagaries of the State’s rules and regulations.

Episode #3

1960s

BBQ chatter interrupted by goats bleating.

Belinda: “Bruce and Paul, Aunty Mable has arrived. She’s brought Uncle Bert and Aunty Mavis and some eggs.”

Aunty Mable: “Oh hello Bruce and nice to see you here Paul. And you must be The Doctor. Soon we might even get to have some female Prime Ministers.”

Paul: “I can hear you are still getting around in your goat cart.”

Aunty Mable: “Well, I know it might seem a long time ago to you when the Government introduced registration fees on the motors and put the excise and sales tax on petrol. And while they say the money gets used for roads, there hasn’t been much bitumen up near us and I still don’t agree that I should be paying for roads I don’t use.

I was going to get the old charcoal gas car out but they said that would need to be registered. So, if I can still get around with the goat buggy that suits me.

I share it with a couple of the other CWA ladies though that got the Taxi Board upset even though we don’t have a taxi in the Mid North. But it means we don’t have to worry about having too many shandies or hock, lime and lemons as the goats know where to go home. And they are very clever and feed themselves, particularly with all the nice roses in town. So none of us need a driver’s licence and we’re not paying that terrible excise.”

While Aunty Mable was unpacking her eggs, butter and potatoes, The Doctor had the chance to ask a rhetorical question. She hadn’t had much chance for one since the Romans substituted law for Greek thinking.

The Doctor: “But if everyone shared their goat buggies and no one paid any excise or licence fees, how would the roads get built? Not really my problem as I sort of fly everywhere but South Australia could end up with a limited road system and a lot of traffic congestion.”

Aunty Mable: “Well perhaps the Government might start charging people when they actually use the roads, including those Victorians who use our roads for free but we have to pay their tolls whenever we use their roads. That would raise the money to improve the roads and make people think about whether and when they should drive, or buggy pool or catch the bus or walk. Less delays for people getting to work might help increase the productivity thing Bert keeps talking about when he’s in Canberra. And if poor people need some support to travel, it can be given directly to them.

The Doctor picked up an egg.

The Doctor: “And how are your hens? Still in court over having too many.”

Bert and Mavis rolled their eyes.

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